Advising Challenges You May Encounter

If a problem feels too big or goes beyond your comfort level, encourage support for you and your student from the Academic Advising Office, x3702. In the meantime, consider these common dilemmas: Academic Difficulties. If a student is experiencing academic difficulties first have him/her talk with the instructor. This is a logical thing for the student to do, but many do not. First-year students who are apprehensive about discussing difficulties with a professor need to be encouraged to do so. Look into the possibility of a tutor. The Academic Advising Office arranges for tutoring in humanities and social studies. Minna Mahlab (Science Learning Center) and Jim Lawrence (Math Lab) coordinate most science and math tutoring; for tutoring in psychology, contact Barbara Brown, and for help in Computer Science contact the department. Try to identify the source of the difficulty. Is the student underprepared for the course? Is time management a problem? Is the student attending class regularly? Are personal problems interfering with academic progress? Does the student need to be referred to Academic Advising, Health and Counseling Services, the Reading, Writing or Math Lab or Science Learning Center? A last resort is to drop the course, if deadlines allow. First-year students may overlook this possibility, which at times provides the only way a student can salvage the rest of his or her courses. Remember that full-time status is 12 credits. With careful planning students can make up the credits to graduate on time. Feelings of Inadequacy. You may find first-year students coming to you after a couple of weeks expressing doubts about their ability to do college work. They may feel intimidated by upper-class students or even a fellow first-year student who uses extensive vocabulary or expresses abstract philosophical ideas. Some students may be experiencing a selective educational institution for the first time. A discussion of this normal, temporary panic is often sufficient. If students do need help with basic skills, don't forget the Academic Resource CentersAdvanced Placement and Dropping Back. Students placed in advanced courses on the basis of school records or placement tests sometimes find they were placed too high. No stigma is attached to dropping back. The error is ours, not theirs. Make this clear to the student. Plan a drop-back option in advance if there is any doubt about the initial placement. Over-Achieving. A student may become obsessed with grades or use study as a means to escape non-academic problems. The over-achiever spends all his or her time studying and rarely socializes. Students may spend time any way they wish, but we are responsible for assisting students in choosing thoughtfully among the many activities available at Grinnell. This problem usually comes to your attention through someone other than the student concerned. Staff members best able to assist are the Residence Life Coordinators, who know the daily lives of their students quite well. Confusion over Future Plans. Most students entering Grinnell are searching for a field of interest. Some become confused along the way and don't see a clear goal ahead. Standardized assessments often help. These inventories are available at the Career Development Office. When a first-year student is unsure of his or her future plans - as most are or ought to be - a broad program of study is to be especially recommended. This permits the student to search while keeping many avenues open, and it also relieves the feeling that every course must be justified in terms of specific goals. Intellectual curiosity is sufficient justification for taking a course. Loss of Motivation. This is a difficult problem to handle. Everyone is motivated by something - the challenge is to find it. Sometimes it helps to steer a student to a faculty member with whom he or she has had good rapport. Loss of motivation may also be a symptom of depression. A Residence Life Coordinator may be able to help. Not all students really want a college education; others are not ready at a particular time. Sometimes a leave of absence does wonders for a student's sense of purpose.Personal Problems. See the "Referral Guide for Student Concerns" for appropriate referrals. Do not hesitate to seek assistance in dealing with students' personal problems. Specialized counselors see referrals as an indication that the adviser is competent and knowledgeable about the resources the College makes available. We do not expect faculty members to serve as personal counselors, but we'd like your help in making a strategic handoff. Roommate Difficulties. These should be referred to the Assistant Dean and Director of Residence Life, Andrea Conner. We do not move students to new rooms right away, but rather we work with them to resolve difficulties with roommates. If problems persist, we offer other room options.